Koko Head Hike: Do Whatever it Takes, Even If It’s Crawling 

At 6:30 a.m., I stood at the bottom of the infamous Koko Head hike in Hawaii Kai. For a moment, I was reminded of “Kung Fu Panda” with the Jade Palace atop a mountain, and I was Po about to take my first step on the 1,048 stairs. But instead of a noodle cart, I had my trusted friend, Raevyn Pabillano-Shei, accompany me on the journey.

I certainly channeled my inner Po because I found myself on my hands and knees, bear crawling up the mountain for the most challenging portions of the hike.   

Though I was an Oahu local for all 22 years of my life, I had yet to hike Koko Head. Being the homebody I am, I had no interest or reason to do so. Yet, I was tasked to write an opinion article for the Chaminade newspaper team. So, I decided to try something new and elaborate on the experience. A hike seemed to be the most hassle-free option. And why not write about my first attempt at one of the most prominent and popular hikes on the island?

As difficult as the hike is physically, it challenges you mentally. Half the battle is to say that you can reach the top and believe in it. Complaining gets you nowhere. Throughout the entirety of the hike, I focused on completing it rather than dreading it. I looked at the challenge and told myself I would accomplish it, no matter what. There was never a moment I thought of turning back. As they say, it is about the journey, not the destination and the experience of the hike was well worth the many moments of being uncomfortable. While the top of Koko Head is quite a sight, it is essential to reflect on how you got there in the first place.

The trail consisted of three parts: a steady incline of train tracks, a rickety bridge and a steep slope of rail tracks. I maintained a steady pace through the first set of tracks and crawled my way across the bridge. With the gaps between the rotting tracks and seemingly nothing between me and a 15-foot drop, I caved. And crawled. Without shame. Because crawling seemed a better option than dying. An alternate path that goes down and around is provided as the bridge can be dangerous. But, if you have trusted balance and confidence, the bridge is much more exciting.

Part three proved to be the most challenging as it seemed much more intimidating with the increase in incline. The train tracks seemed untrustworthy with its broken wood pieces and larger spaces in between. With these factors in mind, I bear crawled the last portion of the hike to accommodate my fear of falling backward and the pain in my legs.

There comes a point where one simply pays no mind to the opinion of others. I was experiencing that moment as I was the only person crawling while the rest of the hikers were on their two feet. But as embarrassing as it seems, crawling encourages you to use your entire body to hike. By doing so, there is less pain in your legs, and it allows you to persevere for an extended period. 

After multiple sets of crawls and breaks, I arrived at the top with dirt on my bottom, hair soaked with sweat, and a nauseous feeling. It took us about an hour, and was the view worth it? Not really. It wasn’t much better than other hikes’ views, such as its neighboring trail, Kuliouou. But I did feel accomplished.

The hike is more for the challenge rather than the view. 

Bask in the glory and take a well-deserved break because hiking down may seem easier, but it is unkind to your legs and knees. I once feared falling backward, now I fear tripping forward. To put it simply, I bear-crawled up and crab-crawled back down Koko Head. The most significant issue of the hike is safety and with a lack of handrails or a quality trail, getting on all fours is practical. 

At the time, it was embarrassing to be face down and butt up on the hike or vice versa. But as I write this article, I am thankful because my body feels just fine post-hike, other than a slight ache in my legs. Going down the mountain seemed less painful as well. Everyone else is much too tired to pass judgment, and the end goal is to reach the top.

So take your time and take as many breaks as needed. Do whatever it takes, even if it’s crawling.